The grant will support work over the next two seasons in engaging new audiences through participatory creative programs, according to Matthew Buckman, the opera’s general director.
The grant was awarded jointly to Fresno Grand Opera and Townsend Opera in Modesto, which joined administrative forces in 2014.
Fresno audiences got a taste of the company’s innovative programming last month with the first installment of “Opera Remix,” a program at the Tower Theatre that combined traditional opera arias and classic rock tunes.
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The next event in the series is Oct. 16. Titled “Opera Remix: Music & Verse,” it will present the central San Joaquin Valley premiere of Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg’s “Hydrogen Jukebox” along with performances of original work by local poets led by Michael Medrano, Bryan Medina and James Tyner.
The evening is the first partnership in a new collaboration between Fresno Grand Opera, the Fresno State Department of Music and the Fresno poetry community.
Buckman said the first “Opera Remix” was a financial success, with ticket sales exceeding the goal for the event by 30 percent. It attracted a number of people attending an opera event for the first time.
“We have seen a strong response to a fundraising campaign we started shortly after the event where 80 percent of contributors to the campaign are first time donors to the company,” he said.
The Irvine grant will support workshops in Fresno by leading composers and librettists from around the country, presentations in Fresno by leading figures surrounding the operas being performed in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons; and several performance events in the 2016-17 season focusing on the work created by local poets and composers, according to Buckman.
Fresno Grand Opera has not received an Irvine grant since 2012, when it finished up a multi-year grant as part of the foundation’s Arts Regional Initiative, which ran from 2007-12. Those grants totaled approximately $100,000 per year and were geared toward organizational capacity building, Buckman said.